Sunday, July 2, 2017

Edits: "Runnin' Down A Dream" by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

One word...EDITS

Well....let me edit that....Two words: EDITS SUCK.

Any author will tell that the 'fun part' is planning and writing the first draft. The blank page is full of possibilities and you're gleefully putting your characters through story and emotional arc hell as you pound through adding words NaNoWriMo style for weeks on end.

Surely my first draft was perfect, right? All ready to 'just hit send' to be published and sell loads of copies. RIGHT?

NOPE.

The 'real work' comes when it's time to edit.... Usually it's little things like...ya know...a plot....or character depth or burning continuity questions like 'What happened to the dog that saved the little girl in Act 2? Where'd he go?' and 'Why did her hair change from short to long in the sixteenth chapter?'

Back in February, I hired my first real editor - Jessa Slade at Red Circle Ink - for a mix of story and copy edits. Jessa is my kind of straight-shooter-editor. The name of her company isn't a lie...there were many red circles and loads of red ink on my manuscript...well not literally since Jessa uses MS Word Track Changes, but the metaphor still applies. Her overall comments letter alone was ten-pages long - TEN single-spaced, twelve point, Times Roman font long AND she liked and enjoyed my story! (Just think what I would've gotten back if she hated it. Well, I guess 'hate' is a strong word....Jessa probably doesn't 'hate' anything she reads...just sees room for improvements. Ha!)

Anyhow, Jessa gave me loads of things to think about with regards to my world building and character development. It took me a few weeks just to answer all of the questions she raised in her comments letter. Now I'm slogging my way through her specific Track Changes comments in my manuscript compile like Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang going up a humungo hill. Life is bogging down my progress, but I can already tell that my work is stronger from the effort.

Dreams are hard work but I'm used to doing tough things. And just like any hill, eventually you reach the peak and coast on a downward slope. I just hope my Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang sprouts its wings so I can soar to publication.  :D


"Runnin' Down A Dream" by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

I have to admit that my all time favorite Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers video is the Alice in Wonderland themed "Don't Come Around Here No More." But then again, I'm a sucker for anything Alice in Wonderland or Frankenstein themed (especially Bride of Frankenstein).

The driving guitars and 'oh-oooohhhhss' slay me every time! Add the trippy dream like graphics to the mix and you end up with one hell of an ear worm with optics to boot.

Now back to my edits....

I'm runnin' down a dream...workin' on a mystery, goin' where ever it leads...


Ready for fun in the sun and volunteer booth duty at the Lake Oswego Arts Festival.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Love Between the Covers" Film: "That's the Way Love Goes" by Janet Jackson

I am a romance author and novelist. Some of you may roll your eyes and others may stand up and cheer. All that I can say is that I am exceedingly proud and happy to be part of a community of women (and some men) who view the world through a fundamentally optimistic lens. Sure, we make our characters work for their HEA (happily ever after), in fact we purposely put them through hell (sometimes literally, not just metaphorically - shout out to all my paranormal and urban fantasy peeps). But at the end of the day, the story leads are either happy together or 'happy for now' which leaves both us authors and our readers all warm and tingly inside.

The documentary Love Between the Covers is a touching look at the romance industry from a reader, author, and publisher point of view. If you haven't seen this movie, I highly recommend it. Romance Writers of America (RWA) gave Laurie Kahn (producer / writer / director) and her team unprecedented access to our billion-dollar industry...yes, that would mean that romance is bigger than science fiction, mystery, and fantasy fiction COMBINED. Laurie Kahn's body of work covers topics from midwives to Tupperware and all of her stories feature women seeking to help and uplift other women. In a world filled with reality television 'cat fights' I find Ms. Kahn's work extremely refreshing.


Plus, the documentary features one of my favorite authors - Ms. Beverly Jenkins. Seriously, if you haven't read one of her books....Get. On. It....like NOW. (Her latest book, Forbidden, is flipping AWESOME and is available in print, e-book, and Audible...just saying.)


Writing and reading romance is my escape from the day-to-day stresses that often feel like a never ending gauntlet. For those who've quipped "why read a book when you know the ending?" all I can say is "it's not the destination, it's the journey." Plus, unlike the real world, I know that in the books I love it all positively works out in the end. :D

"That's the Way Love Goes" by Janet Jackson

Wait... is that Jennifer Lopez in Janet's crew? Here is one of my favorite songs from this era. I mean really.... who wouldn't want to be chilling out with a lively and diverse group of beautiful people listening to great music? And dancing and lighthearted picking on each other...so much fun!



"That's the way love goes and goes and goes...."



Friday, September 11, 2015

Art & Video: "Power Ups" by Sammus

So this happened....

Well, actually it happened in January. Yeah, I know...I'm late off the mark, but I am still incredibly honored to be asked to participate in a documentary about one of my all time FAVORITE ARTISTS: Brenan Sharp.

My dear friend, Delilah Marvelle, helped me film the video below. She also did some awesome editing. <I love you, D!> {If the link below doesn't work on your computer, here's another link to try: Painting Pam Grier.}


So, why now?

Well, lately I've been thinking a lot about art and the spaces we create in ourselves and our homes for creative expression. The past few years, my painting took a back seat to my writing. A recent trip to Mexico City stirred my painter brain from its dormant state. The vibrant colors of Mexican muralists combined with a swing by Frida Kahlo's Blue House made me want to pick up my brushes, again.

In the past, I would pace myself worried that too many canvases would collect in my limited apartment space. But now with sites like Etsy and Vango combined with Paypal and Square, I feel like I have a means to transact business and actually (hopefully) sell a few pieces.There are folks who would say, "But you should create art for art's sake!!" I hear you, but the engineer in me is too much of a pragmatist.

I am a maker who needs to make things to be sane. I am also a sales woman who knows the value of her time and work. This point was hit home by my new financial planner. They were impressed by the variety of talents that I possess. In a nutshell, I felt supremely convicted when they said, "You need to find ways to monetize your skills." That statement has stuck with me.

My dear artist friend, Brenan, has found a way to balance his award winning graphics design day job with his award winning painting career. (I now own three of his works including the Uhura commission below.) I need to find that same sort of balance, too.


"Power-Ups" by Sammus
A card carrying member of the Nerdcore, I learned about SΔMMUS through Black Girl Nerds and For Harriet. I fell in love with her album Another M that mixes fun, thought provoking lyrics with soundtrack cuts from the video game series Metroid. Although I enjoy the entire album, Power-Ups and Mae Jemison are my two faves that consistently make my inner geek girl squeal with glee. Underground rapper, Cornell graduate, PhD student - that's SΔMMUS in one fierce nutshell. Check her out - for real!

"No one woman should have all this power, 

Oops my power level broke your scouter...."

Lt. Uhura by Brenan Sharp

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shameless Plug - #50Fathers : "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge

Normally, I don't do shameless plugs for people or products other than for myself and the musicians, singers, and song writers I select for this blog in my posts. But..... this time I have to support my family, my peeps, and my cousin!

Independent motion picture studio Triangle Park Entertainment LLC and its Chicago-based production partner, Madwerkz Studios LLC will be conducting select screening of the motion picture, “#50Fathers” in six major markets starting in May. #50Fathers is a dramatic comedy written and directed by Joddy Eric Matthews (Seeing Tomorrow, The Deadly Return Project, The Bubble) and filmed in Northeast Ohio. Triangle Park will premiere the film in Cleveland and follow with releases in Atlanta, Detroit, Washington DC, Memphis and Columbus. Soon #50Fathers will also be made available to viewers around the world through video-on-demand (VOD) on Reelhouse (www.reelhouse.org) and other prominent streaming platforms. {Keep an eye out for news on the official VOD release via the #50Fathers Facebook page and the Reelhouse website.} The official US television trailer for the film debuted on Bounce TV (www.BounceTV.com) in early May. The project is the first urban comedy filmed in 4K or Ultra HD.

The story follows Dominique ‘Nique’ Hathaway, a blue-chip high school athlete (Johnathon L. Jackson) as he prepares to sign a lucrative professional sports contract to play football or baseball. He seemingly has the world at his fingertips except for the one thing he desires most…a father. He and a group of friends launch a social media campaign to attract candidates to serve as a father to his younger brother, Tyree and himself. Fifty prospects will be screened and the one selected will be paid $10,000 per month once Nique signs his pro contract.

“This isn’t a sports film; it’s not about teams, touchdowns or baskets. It’s about what’s really important in life... family,” says Matthews.  “The focus is on the values of fatherhood and the importance of family,” he adds. “We believe the timing is perfect for a film of this nature.”#50Fathers stars Johnathon L. Jackson and Kyle Carthens with Joseph Primes, Mikel Mahoney, Tati Ana, Giovanni Castiglione, Latecia D. Wilson, Sonia Bishop and Denny Castiglione.

How am I connected to this project? Well, my cousin - Chris - is one of the producers! (I'm beaming with cousin pride!) Chris is also the Animation Lead for Madwerkz Studios. I love him and I want to see him and his projects thrive to the moon and back. Plus, with Father's Day fast approaching in the USA, #50Fathers is both timely and relevant. If you can't catch a screening, then check it out on video-on-demand (VOD) on Reelhouse (www.reelhouse.org) when it is available. Well done, Madwerkz Studios, well done!

Here's the official movie trailer:



"We Are Family" by Sister Sledge

One of my favorite songs in honor of one of my favorite people. I love these types of early videos. I especially love seeing how they are just having a good time lip synching and hanging out on the waterfront. Plus, I think I have that same outfit in my closet somewhere. LOL!

"WE ARE FAMILY, get up everybody and sing!"




Monday, October 20, 2014

Finishing My Novel: "Ain't It Fun" by Paramore

Question: "How do you eat a whale?"

Answer: "One bite at a time."

Now, I personally haven't actually 'eaten a whale', but I have finished writing a novel....novels, in fact. I have also finished several HUGE creative projects and continue to find news ones to tackle.

People often ask me, "Where do you find the time to do ______________ ?" <writing, painting, sewing, or whatever project of mine we happen to be discussing> I'll be honest and say that I've never been one to sit idle - well, even if I'm sitting still, my brain is still churning out ideas and stories. The plain and simple truth is that I HAVE to do something creative everyday or I feel like my head will explode. Some people feel the same way about exercise. (Why couldn't I be blessed with that specific drive? Ha!)

It never fails, whenever I first sit down to start devouring a new whale I feel a swirling mix of anticipation, excitement, and (dare I say it) dread. Standing in front of that blank canvas or sitting in front of the blinking cursor in a blank document, I always pause to give myself time to fully commit to the task in front of me. I will toil for weeks on this project and I have to be 'in it to win it.'

Eventually, the engineer in me kicks in....when writing, I start an Excel spreadsheet to track my daily word count and progress towards my goal. When painting, my inner engineer envisions the finish project and deconstructs the object to methodically produce a plan of attack.

Finishing is critical. How else can you learn and improve if you don't complete the process? Especially with writing, often the last bits take an unexpected turn that requires some pre-seeding in the parts you wrote months ago.

I finished writing my third manuscript this spring, took a month off to let it marinate, then started editing and polishing. By the end of summer, it was ready to go out for submittal to my short list of dream agents.

And now, I wait.

Waiting for a reply is the worst part of this process. Agents and editors are busy people. They have bills to pay, clients to meet, and networks to groom. And like any job, you give attention to the projects that are making money, not the slush pile that might bear fruit. Mostly, I submitted to folks who requested my work via one-on-one meetings and pitch sessions at conferences. I also submitted to agents recommended to me by one of their authors. My hope is that these meetings and personal recommendations will keep my manuscript out of the general slush pile.

But still...I wait.

And let me tell you, patience is beyond a virtue. Patience is tortured anguish, wrapped in calm frustration, drenched with silence.

Still, I find solace in that fact that I FINISHED another book....and that, my friends, is farther than most make it on this journey to publication.

"Ain't It Fun" by Paramore

I love it when a song's lyrics reveal a deeper and opposite meaning to what I initially thought. Like when a mellow song has biting lyrics or when a peppy song is about depression. Songs that immediately come to mind are "Linger" by The Cranberries, "No Rain" by Blind Melon, and now "Ain't It Fun" by Paramore.

Like this song laments the realities of growing up, as a writer you quickly learn how hard it is to get traditionally published in today's market. Now, before you put on your rose colored glasses and question why I'm not self-pubbing - trust me when I say that in many ways self-pubbing is more work than the traditional route IF you want to do it well. In the end, this is my dream and hope for a new career path - so I really can't complain...too much.  :D

"Don't go crying to your mama, 'cause you're on your own in the real world..."


Miner's masks for my latest steampunk adventure!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Spreading the Love: "Where is the Love" by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway

So...back in June, I had lunch with one of the smartest and sweetest couples I know - Tammie & Andrew - in downtown Portland. I met Tammie through my local writing club. At that time she was the webmaster for the club's website and an aspiring author. Now she is the book review tour-de-force behind Night Owl Reviews (NOR). It was during our yummy lunch, that Tammie asked me if I would like to cover the diversity desk for NOR's free monthly e-magazine.

I'll be honest and admit that prior to her asking, I really hadn't entertained the notion of becoming a book reviewer. However, once I picked myself up off the floor, thought about it, and asked a few questions, I felt the gears in my brain start to churn with ideas.

You see, the world is full of untold stories and firsthand accounts that remain unspoken. As I continue my journey towards publication, I've crossed paths with several like minded authors from all walks of life and cultures. Here was my opportunity to shine a spotlight, even if it's a small one, on some of their amazing stories. In addition, here was my opportunity to connect with readers interested in these stories, too.

Without further ado, here is the debut of my new column: The Melting Pot.

The subtitle is "Stories with Diversity and Multiculturalism." Just so we're clear, the word 'stories' is key to that phrase. The authors of these stories will not always be from a minority population, however the vast majority of books that feature minority leads are written by minority authors. In this column, I will also explore cultures, countries, and locations we don't often see in commercial fiction.

I'm an avid reader of several genres. I'm particularly fond of unusual mashups or fresh takes on standard totems. My first column features a Latin twist on ghost stories. My September post will feature a Russian aesthetic applied to young adult paranormal and the romance thriller genres.  And I will most certainly cover Chinese, Native American and African-American stories before the end of the year.

In the end it is my goal to showcase a wide variety of books that feature a broad spectrum of characters. It's just my way of trying to spread a little love and highlight all the flavors the world has to offer.

"Where is the Love" By Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway

Boy, this song brings back many childhood memories. I was truly blessed to grow up in a house full of love, laughter, and music. If I made a mix tape of songs from my childhood, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, The Hair Soundtrack, Dionne Warwick, Motown, and Roberta Flack would dominate the list of songs. (Throw in a few of Moms Mabley's jokes and my young year's soundtrack would be complete.)

Given the events of this week in Ferguson, MO, I felt this song was somehow very appropriate. My hope is that as more people and authors stand up to tell their stories, we see more empathy, sympathy, and action towards equality.

"Where is the love? Where is the love?..."


Check out my new column in NOR's free e-magazine each month!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blog Hop: "Hold On" by Alabama Shakes

Many thanks to Gina Fluharty and Sarah Raplee for asking me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Hop. Gina asked me to post in January and I failed <miserably> to get my post done. But I did manage to snag Melia Alexander and Linda Mercury into the fold. Now Sarah requested my participation and I am taking it as a sign from God and the universe that I need to comply. Here are my answers to the four key questions:

1) What am I working on?
I am working on a young adult Americana Steampunk novel that takes place in an alternative 1860. It is the first book in a planned five book series.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well....my story features escaped slaves. The lead character is sixteen years old. She is a mechanic and a healer with paranormal abilities. Having an African-American lead in a Steampunk novel is still rather rare. The physical transition from slavery to freedom happens in the first book, however throughout the rest of the series the mental transition is also explored. How does one learn to live like a free person when subservience is literally beat into you from an early age? There are romantic elements in the series, too. Specifically, the son of the plantation master is in love with my heroine...but she has to decide if she really loves him or if she has 'a love' for him because he provided a level of protection for her when they both lived on the plantation.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Let's just say that I grew tired of reading books that did not include people like me. :D Black and brown skinned people were present in every time period in some way, shape, or form - yet we are missing from most works of fiction. I started writing, because I felt like my stories weren't being told and my perspective wasn't adequately represented.

I write both futuristic fantasy and steampunk. I am an engineer by degree and a time traveler by choice. I love doing research and I love gadgets. Plus, I get to either rewrite history or create a new future. Writing ties all of my interests and hobbies into one big ball of good times!

4) How does my writing process work?
I typically start with a kernel of an idea that usually takes the form of a 'what if' question. Any little thing can plant the seed of a story in my head. Often I hear things on National Public Radio that prompt an idea. In my day job, I work on products for smart / green buildings. I have to stay current on new and developing technology, so it is always interesting to wonder what would happen if the technology is misused or abused in some way by some maniacal person.

After I have the idea, I plot my first draft of the story using Michael Hague's Six Stage Plot Structure. It is the three act, five turning point structure used in screenplays and it is a great way to lay out the rough skeleton of your stories. To be honest, I am a mix of plotter (planner) and pantser (writing by the seat of my pants - stream of thought writer). I like to plot the 'big rocks' (major turning points) for my story, then pants my way from rock to rock. I subscribe to Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People school of thought. Specifically, habit number two "Begin with the End in Mind" applies to my life and my writing. I have to know where I am going, so that I can pants my way there.

I put my plot diagram, story timeline, word count tracker, submissions, and other key story information into an Excel spreadsheet to keep everything organized. Yup, that's the engineer in me rising to the surface!

The artist in me, creates fun world building journals that include maps, character pictures, drawings of gadgets, character profiles, and other mementos that pertain to the story. I even use these journals to pitch my books.

All of this work is being done while I'm doing research and hammering out the first draft. Getting that first draft done is soooooo key. I used to get stuck in a loop of rewriting the first few chapters. I learned the hard way that you just have to power through that first draft, because the characters and story lines will take twists and turns that you didn't plan...and often these twists affect the opening chapters.

For me organization is key, then it's just a matter of getting the words on the page.

"Hold On" by Alabama Shakes
I LOVE this song. I get a chill every time I listen to it, because it is the story of my life! I fell in love with Alabama Shakes during their performance on The 2013 Grammy Awards ceremony. I remember being mesmerized by lead singer-guitarist, Brittany Howard, and her soulful crooning.

I'm adding "Hold On" to my mixtape, because as a writer you just have to keep plugging away at your dream of writing a novel. Don't worry if people tell you it's 'unmarketable' or 'I'm tired of reading about vampires / werewolves / whatever.' If the story is on your heart and keeping you up at night, then write it and see what happens. If you don't write your book, you'll never know where it would've taken you...

"But I don't want to wait......"


My world building journal for my latest work...